“Poll: Support Wanes for Bush Foreign Policy,” says the headline on the front page of today’s Washington Post. The article itself is almost entirely negative, featuring poll respondents’ coolness toward the idea of spending another $87 billion on Iraq, and declining numbers on certain questions relating to both domestic and foreign policy.
While the article does refer briefly and grudgingly to some of the poll’s positive results–like the President’s approval rating, holding steady at 58%–you have to look at the data themselves to get any meaningful information. The data are here, and what they show is not too bad considering that no one who reads newspapers or watches network television has heard anything good about the administration for the past three months.
Along with the 58% approval rating, the Washington Post/ABC poll shows that by a 70% to 27% margin, respondents approve of the President’s handling of the war on terrorism, and, by 52% to 46%, they approve of his handling of the situation in Iraq. Those numbers are down, of course, as you would expect, but still strong under the circumstances.
Further, by 71% to 27%, respondents support the U.S. presence in Iraq, and by 61% to 37% they think the war was worth fighting. Perhaps best for the administration, and most surprising, is that an astonishing 86% say they are “confident that the Bush plan will bring stability and end the violence in Iraq.” So the spirit of pessimism the Democrats have tried to engender doesn’t seem to have taken hold. Yet.
While the President scores relatively poorly on a number of issues that are traditionally viewed in Democratic terms–prescription drugs, etc.–there are also areas of surprising strength. For example, majorities approve Bush’s “handling” of education and the environment.
When matched against any of the Democratic contenders, Bush wins a trial race, at this admittedly early stage, handily. The interesting thing is that it really doesn’t matter who the Democratic candidate is: whether matched against Lieberman, Kerry, Gephardt or Dean, Bush leads by approximately 54% to 39%.
I’ve accentuated the positive here; as the Post article notes, some trends for President Bush are negative. Still, on the whole the results support the optimists’ case. My only caveat: as I’ve said before, public perception lags far behind the news cycle. It may well be that the impact of the media’s relentless attacks on the administration is still largely unabsorbed, but will surface in the months to come.
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